Prey 2 had me at Intergalactic bounty hunter. I don't need to know how they tie this blending of Red Dead Redemption and Blade Runner into the original Prey, (you're an air marshal on a plane spotted in just a few minutes of the original game). I don't need to have new catchy phrases like alien noire paraded out to sell me on it. All I need to know is that you're a human badass taking down alien bounties in an open world.
I suspect Chris Rhinehart, co-founder of developer Human Head Studio, knows this as he explains the game's backstory. You play as Killian Samuels, an air marshal on Seajay Air Flight 6401, kidnapped and brought to the planet Exodus. His lead up to the gameplay is brief. He wants to let his game do the talking.
When the game opens Samuels has been on the planet for a long time, he thinks he is the only human there. He somehow becomes a bounty hunter of sorts, making some friends and lots of enemies.
Our first glimpse of the game in action takes place in the Central City Bowery, the areas looks very vertical, very busy, a bit like the city of Blade Runner. And the verticality of the game isn't just a visual distinction, it serves a purpose. You can jump and climb up the levels of the towering city. You can use gadgets to make your way up the city too as you prowl for targets.
It's important to note that this is an open world of sorts, there are things going on that have nothing to do with your current prey. At one point, for instance, Samuels comes across an alien getting a beat down. He can decide to interfere, Rhinehart tells us, but he doesn't have to. By default Samuels carries his gun holstered, but he can pull it out at any time not just to shoot, but to threaten. In this case, he leaves the scene and goes into a casino.
This is where we get our look at the first of many gadgets Samuels has: The scanner. The scanner highlights aliens of interest in yellow. Those not worthy of your attention are shown outlined in green and those that are a threat or armed are shown in red. Your target is blue.
Samuels current target seems pre-occupied with a dancer, but when he spots you he takes off running, shooting behind him as he goes. Samuels manages to make short work of him, shooting him down, rather then capturing him, and then searching his body with a button press.
Rhinehart says that not all targets will react to seeing you in the same way. Some will run, some will attack, some will give themselves up, some will call in henchmen. There's also a sort of eye in the sky you have to look at for, it is the cities police force and if things get too wild it will get involved.
This initial run in isn't nearly as elaborate as the first genuine mission we watch unfold. In it you're asked to track down an alien, first by catching up with an informant named Krux. When you finally locate him, Krux asks for 2000 credits to tell you where your bounty is. Rhinehart tells us you don't have to pay him. You can threaten him. In this case, Samuels shoots his bodyguard, and Krux gives you the information, but says he'll be calling in a favour down the line.
Samuels uses some snazzy hover boots to hover down to the club where his bounty is hiding out. A quick scan shows that the target is surrounded by guards, so he grabs a nearby alien as a shield and walks into the thick of things.
The shield gets his head blown off in seconds and the bounty is on the lam, teleporting across short spaces away from Samuels as the hunter takes out the bar full of guards with his pistol and a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. In combat we see that Samuels can take cover, both in the traditional way and by grabbing on to higher and lower levels and taking people out from below or above.
As the chase proceeds across the city, Samuels finds himself in another, darkened, bar. A creature with a heavy gun is spraying bullets at the bounty hunter until he uses a special device to shoot an anti-gravity wave at him. The gunner floats up from behind the cover and Samuels shoots him down.
When Samuels finally catches up with his bounty, the creature begs for his life, offers to pay more than the bounty for his release. It's your choice. Samuels can even decide to interrogate a bounty before sending him off to be collected. In this case that's what Samuels does, learning that a smuggler has a contract out on him.
After sending the bounty off to your contractor via a teleportation field, your bounty's brother comes after you, sending in a virtual army of aliens including one the size of a building. That's also how the presentation ends.
It sounds like the game, while open-ended in many ways, will lean heavily on shooting and its first-person shooter roots. Rhinehart says that designers are focusing on delivering a fast, fluid game that includes a lot of key shooter elements like the ability to seek cover, blind fire and something he called "agile combat."
It looks like a fun, single-player experience set in a colourful alien world. It also looks like nothing you'd expect to see coming from Prey. I'm OK with that, though it seems like an odd decision to try and weave these two distinctly different games into one universe.
Prey 2 is due on next year on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.